Monthly Archives: December 2017

Back to the island

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Back to the island

Anyone who knows me well will tell you that I am not particularly suited to life in England. The shitty weather; the lack of light in the winter; needing to do everything early because everywhere closes at 6pm. I love living in Valencia; the lifestyle; the food; our new friends; the weather. However, having just arrived home for 3 weeks of (unpaid) Christmas holidays, the novelty of being back up north, especially in December, is reminding me of the things I really do miss about little old England and the English.

1.English manners. “Could you?” “Please,” “Thank you,” “If you don’t mind.” The direct, clear meaning issued by the over-use of the imperative in Spain certainly lets you know what’s what. But sometimes my English side craves a coating of courtesy.

2. Hot drinks I won’t say too much here; you can read my thoughts in another one of my blogs: the philosophy of hot drinks. All I need to say is: this is one thing the English really do do so much better.

3. Friendly faces. The Spanish may be a warmer, more tactile nationality, but the English smile a lot more when they are out and about. For me, a smile conveys genuine warmth. Perhaps we use facial expressions more than the Spanish because we have a greater need for personal space, which causes us to shy away from touching anyone we are not emotionally close to. Who knows?

4. Ready meals. This one is very controversial for me. As a proponent of healthy eating, home cooking and plenty of exercise, this is something of an anomaly in my list. But for that one night a week when I really can’t be bothered to think, let alone cook, I miss the wide range of delicious (some even healthy) ready meals available.

5. The sound of home. After stepping off the plane, the first time I hear a Mancunian or Lancashire accent is  like a warm welcome-home hug from England herself. The sound of the accents of my childhood; the reminder that I don’t have to enunciate and I can say “yous” or “it’s bloody Baltic” or “Alright, Our Kid!” Yeahhhh 🙂

So there you have it. An odd list, but it’s always the small things. Still, worry not, Valencia. In three weeks’ time I’ll be craving tapas, sunshine, late opening hours and the ease of daily life in a Mediterranean city. And when I arrive back in Spain, I’ll be happy to be home again, breathing in the sunshine.

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Winter is coming!

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Winter is coming!

It’s cold in Valencia. No, really! Down to 3C in the morning! Never mind winter is coming; winter is here.

A year ago, I actually scoffed at my students when they told me that during the winter in Valencia,”People feel tired, they have no energy because it’s cold and dark in the evenings.”

“Dark?” I repressed the urge to yell, “Are you having a fucking laugh?”

Early December in Valencia, at 5.30pm there is a twilight hue to the sky as the sun slips away. Fiery sunsets, day after day. Back home, night has well and truly fallen by 4pm. The curtains are drawn, it is pitch black outside. THAT, my soft, southern friends, is dark. That is a northern winter. And just because the sun rises every day, there is no guarantee that we will catch a glimpse of it. Does anyone up north remember the three months of grey skies that shrouded us at the end of 2015? Yes, three months, I kid you not. I was teaching Japanese students who had been in York for a couple months without having seen the sun. One of them actually whipped out her camera on one of the few days that the sun peeped through the thick grey skies and snapped a photo. The year was nicely rounded off by the epic flooding of York on boxing day. Watching the national news in Lancashire, we thought we would have to row back home over the Pennines and through the submerged streets. Safe to say that the weather was a huge factor in our move here!

The thing is, I’m afraid to admit, I am going soft. You could say acclimatised, but my fellow northeners would correct me and say soft. When it drops to 8C here, I think it’s freezing. I can’t imagine how I’ll feel this weekend, back in northern England for Christmas. Still, as with many things in this nomadic existence, I am neither one thing, nor the other. I am not the hardy northerner I used to be, able to wear a summer dress when the mercury hits 17C. But then, neither has my blood become completely Mediterranean. Yes, 8C feels Baltic, but I am holding off wearing my heavy winter coat. We have only just put the heating on, while my students have been warming their homes for over a month.

On the other hand, I have acclimatised to temperatures that simply don’t exist back home. In Valencia we live for a couple of months averaging 34C, so a drop down to seven or eight degrees is a difference of 26C. This is more of a drop than is experienced between British summer and winter temperatures. I have come to adore the bright, humid heat of the Valencian summer, except in the early hours, when it doesn’t drop below 23C and there is 80% humidity (this I have in common with Valencians). Not many people I know back home would be cycling around town every day in a humid 33C and think nothing of it. Up north, people start complaining when the temperature rises to 23C.  This, my second summer in Valencia, I just got on with it and accepted the fact that for several months, I would always be too hot. I love the freedom that comes with a guaranteed summer; knowing that I will never have to think about what to wear because it will be hot and sunny every day. I LOVE it!

So yes, in some ways, I have gone soft. 10C in Valencia feels like 1C back home home. But in other ways I have become more resistant to heat and humidity, able to go about my daily life in the balmy summer temperatures without batting an eyelid. And so I continue, no longer a resilient notherner, yet not quite a soft, southern fairy.